Established in 2018 with a $1.9 million grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA), the University of Arizona College of Nursing’s Arizona Nursing Inclusive Excellence (ANIE) program has become a crown jewel of the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Full-time, pre-professional nursing, Bachelor of Science in nursing and doctoral students who are Native American, Hispanic/Latino, first-generation college attendees or from a rural or U.S.-Mexico border community may qualify to become ANIE scholars. As scholars, they gain access to financial support and academic enrichment services, such as mentoring, coaching, individual and group tutoring, professional skills development and peer networking.
One of the program’s most valuable resources is its annual ANIE Summer Intensives, which are required for first-year, first-semester Pre-Professional Nursing students already enrolled at the UA and first and third-semester students in the BSN program.
Linda Perez, M Admin, RN, the principal lecturer for the Summer Intensive, explains that the program prepares students for their coming studies by creating a warm environment where they get acquainted with their cohort, meet faculty and generally build a sense of bonding and belonging. “They get to learn from each other and establish connections through peer mentoring,” she says. “First-semester students peer mentor the pre-nursing students and the third-semester students mentor the first-semester students.”
During the height of COVID-19, participation in the Summer Intensive dipped, but 2023 has seen a resurgence of activity. During the six-week program, third semester students get to shadow an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Nurse to see the kinds of patients they’ll be caring for in the following semester. They also participate in community immersion experiences at Clinica Amistad, Casa Alitas and Pascua Yaqui Health Department. Pre-nursing students receive a raft of instruction in subjects like writing, self-care, academic success strategies, and presentation skills.
Students also get to participate in exciting off-campus opportunities like the Global MindEd Conference in 2022 and the Rural Health Conference in 2023.
Perez is proud to be a part of the ANIE students’ nursing journeys. She loves seeing their personal and professional growth during the Summer Intensive. “They’re proud of themselves, their self-esteem grows,” she says. “What they achieve in such a short period of time is just truly amazing. I wish I could bottle up the secret sauce and make it happen for every student.”
Over the coming weeks, we'll be profiling three ANIE scholars -- Andrea Acero, Samantha Chai and Julian Grijalva -- to hear about their experiences in the Summer Intensive and where they hope to go from here:
A first-generation college student hailing originally from Phoenix, Andrea Acero is about to enter her third semester in the UArizona Nursing BSN program. “The opportunities that ANIE brought were intriguing to me because, being a first-generation student, no one in either of my extended families has any experience in health care,” she says. “I’m the first one going into a medical field.” Acero’s first Summer Intensives were marred by the onset of COVID-19, forcing her to attend virtually, but she has prized her in-person experiences since then. She has learned clinical skills, physical assessments, medical terminology, and more, all of which have better prepared her for her future career.
What inspired your interest in nursing?
My parents were both immigrants, so I was aware of their experiences not having their own representation or hearing stories from other people in our community about distrusting health care providers due to not seeing a similarity in the sense of community overall in health care. But I think what truly inspired me was my experience volunteering in Phoenix at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where there was a bilingual nurse. I thought that was interesting because I had never been exposed to that before. I’m Spanish speaking as well, so seeing how much that impacted the patient made me realize that’s how I would be able to make an impact within my own community.
How did you get involved in the ANIE program?
I had heard about ANIE the summer before my freshman year. Emails were sent to all the students that talked about an opportunity for first-generation college students or those identifying as of Hispanic descent or being from rural communities, and so I thought, ‘Okay, I fit within this program.’ I saw it as an opportunity to explore in pre-rec to see if this was truly something that would be a good fit for me. I applied, and then after some interviews, I was introduced into the program.
Tell us about your experience in the summer intensives?
We’ve taken classes in medical terminology, and we’ve built strong critical thinking with our professors. Overall, it was a great way to familiarize ourselves with some of the faculty before going into the college.
The second summer we were finally able to be in person, which was great. We were able to learn about physical assessment as well as skills that would help us ease the transition of first semester. We also attended a conference in Colorado that was great.
What is your biggest takeaway from the ANIE Summer Intensives?
My interest in community health overall. It’s always been something that I’ve leaned toward, but seeing the impact we’ve had in helping others has been great. Over the summers, we’ve been going to smaller clinics in Tucson, like Clinica Amistad which helps those that are underserved and uninsured, as well as Casa Alitas, which is the intake for refugees, where we’ve helped with their transition and provided medical care. My hope is that after receiving my BSN and RN and establishing myself as a nurse I can come back to help the community. Aside from that exposure and all the opportunities, the summer intensives have set a great foundation for friendship. Having others in the group who have similar experiences and backgrounds to me has been great.
What attracted you to the UArizona program?
Two of my siblings graduated from UArizona, so that was one aspect of it, knowing that they had a great experience. I wanted to stay closer to home, and I’d investigated the various state programs, but I knew from speaking to a few nurses how great the program was. I love Tucson, I love the closeness of the community itself, as well as the UArizona campus. So far, it’s been the best choice I made.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I definitely see myself going higher, whether it’s my DNP or a PhD. A DNP is something I have always thought about – to be able to provide direct service to others as a Family Nurse Practitioner -- but I also think that teaching is something that I’ve always really enjoyed. If I’m able to eventually go back and teach others or become a professor, that would also be something I would really enjoy.